Walkden Monument has stood, since 1968, at the side of Manchester Road, next to St Paul’s Church and it is easy to overlook this impressive reminder of Walkden’s Victorian past.


    The Countess of Ellesmere
    The monument stands, as the inscription states, as “A public tribute of affection and respect to the memory of Harriet, widow of Francis 1st Earl of Ellesmere A.D. 1868.”
    Harriet came to Worsley in 1837 with her husband, then Lord Francis Egerton who had inherited Worsley from his great uncle and Godfather, the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. The young couple found the district in “the lowest state of ignorance and degradation”. Having made their home at Worsley New Hall, (completed in 1846, the year Lord Francis became the 1st Earl of Ellesmere), their interest in the plight of the working people and their work to improve working conditions, endeared them to the local population.
    Lady Harriet was involved in stopping women and girls working underground in the Bridgewater Trustee’s pits: in 1841 she founded the Walkden Moor servants’ school to provide alternative employment. This was attached to the old St Paul’s Junior School and trained girls for domestic service.
    One obituary stated of the Countess that “Her charity was especially conspicuous for its Christian qualities, for she was always ready to comfort the poor and needy. She was closely identified with most of the charities in and near Worsley and by her death the poor have indeed lost a real friend”.
    She died on 17th April 1866 and is buried in the Ellesmere Vault in St Marks Church, Worsley.

    The Monument
    Immediately after her funeral a subscription was started to raise in her memory a “monument of durable and visible character.” Leading architects submitted designs and that of Mr T. Graham Jackson was chosen: fifty feet high, in the style of a 13th century Eleanor Cross, and with three distinct sections. Above a square base rises a massive central column, each supporting a niche.
    Each niche originally contained a statuette, modelled on local people, representing local trades – a collier, craftsman and two factory girls. The statue of the collier was damaged by miners throwing stones at it – a particularly unpopular overlooker had been chosen as a model. The four small statues disappeared in 1968 when the monument was dismantled, replacements were installed in 2007.
    The central section is octagonal and carries four life sized statues, now sadly weathered, of the virtues with which Lady Harriet was said to be endowed – Charity, Piety, Munificence and Prudence. The top stage is cruciform in plan and is surmounted with a spirelet and stone cross. The carvings and statues were executed by Messrs. Farmer and Brindley of London, the rest of the work by the firm of Halliday and Cave of Oakham, Rutland. 

             
        The Original Site
    The monument was erected on land given by the second Earl of Ellesmere. It stood in the centre of Walkden, at the side of the main turnpike road opposite the end of Bolton Road. The creation of Bridgewater Road in 1868 and Memorial Road in 1875 left the Monument on an island in the middle of the junction of five roads, where it stood as a local landmark for 100 years. By the late 1960’s, despite changing the shape and size of the surrounding island, the monument was causing increasing traffic congestion. In 1968, at the insistence of the ministry of Transport, and despite local protest, the Monument was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt in its present position.